Sermon in a nutshell: Matthew 27:39-44
On Ash Wednesday (2/22) we started Lent. Lent is 40 days of prayer and preparation for Easter. Actually there are 46 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter but we do not count the 6 Sundays because Sundays are regarded as “mini Easter.” During these 40 days, in the early church, people usually practiced self-control, fasting, alms giving, and prayer.
So, on this first Sunday of Lent we will meditate on self-control and Christian ethics. The Bible passage for today is describing Jesus who is mocked and insulted by many people. There were three groups of people who insulted Jesus. (1) Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!” (2)The chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! He’s the king of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” (3) In the same way, the rebels who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him. Those passersby, priests and teachers, and the rebels all insulted Jesus. However, we cannot read any reaction from Jesus!
Why do people insult others? And how do we respond to those insults? What do we learn from Jesus? Today is Youth Sunday and I want to talk more about youth and adult “bullying.”
First: Why do people insult others? Did Jesus do something wrong? NO! He cured the sick, he fed the hungry, and he taught the Word of God! Jesus did everything right. Then why did people insult him? There are three common reasons why people insult others:
• They have low self-esteem and try to cover it up by insulting others. When they are frustrated and fail to achieve things in their lives, they try to destroy others to feel that they are not the only losers. The rebels are an example of this.
• It could have been the way that they were treated by others. If you are abused at home, you might bully others at school or at work. The crowd was oppressed by the Roman soldiers and adopted their behaviors as normal actions.
• People can believe that their behavior is normal. So many TV shows and movies describe violence as a part of our lives and people start believing that violence is normal. The chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked Jesus because they mocked people all the time; they did not feel that they were doing anything abnormal. That is the case also when people discriminate against other races. They just act out their daily routine without realizing that they are practicing discrimination against other people!
Second: How do we respond to those insults? I will ask our youth director, Jake Ritter, to address this issue:
• When our children experience bullying at school they usually do not tell their parents or grand-parents. However, we can detect the changes from their behaviors. When we detect such changes, we have to communicate with our children. (Same principles are applied to adult bullying!)
• Children often feel that everything was their fault. They feel that if they tell, things will get worse and that adults will not believe what they say. They are afraid of being told to fight back and to be tough. So, we should not say, “Fight Back!” or “You have done something wrong!”
• We have to tell them that it is not their fault! Then we have to teach them how to respond to the bullies.
⁃ Teach them, if possible, to avoid the bullies and to use the buddy system.
⁃ Tell them to hold their anger.
⁃ Help them to act brave and to ignore the bullies.
⁃ Guide them to talk to the adults (counselors, teachers, and youth directors)
• Talk to the parents of the bullies and to the school officials.
Finally, let us now read the Bible again and see what we learn from Jesus.
• Obviously, Jesus held his anger. He did not just ignore them but he understood why people insulted and mocked him. Jesus is God who has unconditional love. So he blessed all the people silently. We can see this in the remark of Jesus who said to one of the thieves, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”(Luke 23:43)
• Jesus prayed to God! (Remember, talk to the parents!) “Father, forgive them because they do not know what they are doing!”
• Jesus taught us how to respond to the evil. Matthew 5:39 “But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.”
• How can we forgive others, bless them, and turn our other cheek to an evil person? Remember that they are the ones who do not have high self-esteem. The reason why we can show such good self-control is found in deep self-confidence. The voice from heaven said to Jesus, “You are my Son, whom I love; with whom I am well pleased.” With that confirmation, Jesus could overcome all the temptations that Satan had in the wilderness and all the insults that people hurled against him.
My brothers and sisters!
During this Lenten season, I pray that we all restore this unshakable self-confidence that God is our Father. We are God’s beloved. In whatever situation, God is in control. Then we can exercise self-control and bless all, even those who insult us!
• When have you lost your temper or self-control?
• What did you learn from that experience?
• What or who could help you to learn biblical ways to practice self-control?